Yo-Yo Ma was born in 1955 to Chinese parents living in Paris. He began to study the cello with his father at age four and soon came with his family to New York. Later, his principal teacher was Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School.
In 1998, Mr. Ma established the Silk Road Project, which presents performances by the Silk Road Ensemble, engages in cross-cultural exchanges and residencies, leads workshops for students, and partners with leading cultural institutions to create educational materials and programs. In 2013-14, the organization continues to expand Silk Road Connect, a multidisciplinary educational initiative for middle-school students in New York City’s public schools. Developing new music is also a central undertaking of the Silk Road Project, which has been involved in commissioning and performing more than sixty new musical and multimedia works from composers and arrangers around the world.
As the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, Mr. Ma provides musical leadership and guidance on program development for the symphony’s Institute for Learning, Access and Training. Mr. Ma and the Institute have also created the Citizen Musician Initiative, a movement that seeks to use the art form to create and inspire a sense of community.
Mr. Ma’s discography of more than ninety albums (including more than seventeen Grammy award winners) reflects his wide-ranging interests. He has made several successful crossover recordings, among them Hush with Bobby McFerrin, Appalachia Waltz and Appalachian Journey with Mark O’Connor and Edgar Meyer, and two Grammy-winning tributes to the music of Brazil. Mr. Ma’s recent recordings include Mendelssohn’s piano trios with Emanuel Ax and Itzhak Perlman. His recent album, The Goat Rodeo Sessions, with Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, and Stuart Duncan, received the 2013 Grammy for Best Folk Album. In 2009, Sony Classical released a box set to commemorate Mr. Ma’s thirty years as a Sony recording artist.
His many awards include the Avery Fisher Prize, the Glenn Gould Prize, the National Medal of the Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2011, Mr. Ma was recognized as a Kennedy Center Honoree. Appointed a CultureConnect Ambassador by the United States Department of State in 2002, he has trained and mentored thousands of students in countries including Lithuania, Korea, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, and China. He serves as a UN Messenger of Peace and as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities. He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Barack Obama at the 56th Inaugural Ceremony.
Mr. Ma and his wife have two children. He plays two instruments, a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice and the 1712 “Davidoff” Stradivarius. For additional information, visit yo-yoma.com and silkroadproject.org.